Wivenhoe’s Conservation Area
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THE CONSERVATION AREA IN WIVENHOE: OR ONCE MORE UNTO THE DUSTY TOMES!
An article for Wivenhoe News by Pat Marsden (Note: Information about the research into the Wivenhoe Conservation Area follows the article.)
While establishing the Queens Road Residents Association we started to gather information about the fact that Queens Road was in Wivenhoe’s Conservation Area. We thought that finding this information would be straightforward but it proved to be completely the opposite. We first approached the Town Council Office but they said that they were unable to help us. We then went to the Head of Conservation at Colchester Borough Council (CBC), but they had no details of when and why the area had been designated and the Planning Department could only offer electronic maps. CBC said that any early records must be held by Essex County Council (ECC). ECC said that the information should be held by CBC. Essex Records office (ERO) were unable to help us, as were the many local organisations and contacts we approached. Eventually we spoke to Austin Baines, who said that the Town Council definitely had some records in the office, and if they wouldn’t let us see them we should quote the ‘Freedom of Information’ Act. We had a more forceful exchange with the Town Council Office, and this time they produced a dusty file entitled Civic Amenities Act 1967, which contained an exchange of letters between Wivenhoe Urban District Council (as it then was) and Essex County Council, confirming that the Conservation Area in Wivenhoe was designated on 17 June 1969. There was also a copy of the original map.
Now that we had a date, ERO was able to produce ECC minutes confirming that the reason for the designation was that ‘Wivenhoe was one of a number of Essex Towns which were noted as being ‘outstanding’ in the Council for British Archaeology’s (CBA) ‘List of Towns of Architectural and Historic Importance’. They commented that ‘The Conservation Area proposed includes the compact sequence of spaces leading down from the High Street and St Mary’s to the quay and waterfront; also some of the better Victorian development (including some good terraces as in Alma Street) on the rising ground behind the Parish Church, around the railway’.
We still felt that there should be an actual report accompanying the designation but this continued to be elusive. We spoke to Michael Munt from English Heritage who suggested that in 1969 there had not been a requirement for Conservation Area Statements and therefore there might have been no accompanying document assessing the importance of the area as there would be today. He suggested that Wivenhoe was originally designated because of the high quality buildings and early street pattern within the central core, including the mediaeval church, the Quay and various surrounding buildings dating from the sixteenth century onwards. Later nineteenth century areas such as Queens Road would have been included partly because of the townscape value of the intact groups of Victorian housing, even if they are not all listed, and also because of the contribution they make to the setting of the town as a whole.
We continued looking just to make sure and in the process unearthed the ‘Wivenhoe, Historic Towns Project Assessment Report (1998), produced by Maria Medlycott on behalf of the ECC Planning Department (Archaeology Section), as part of the Essex Historic Towns Survey, funded by English Heritage. This contained summaries of the history and importance of the town, with a list of documentary and archaeological evidence, a schedule of listed buildings, and some very useful historical maps, including one on planning constraints. Spurred on by finding this document we returned to the ERO to see if they could track down the CBA’s 1965 ‘List’ again. At first they said no, but five minutes later an email came through saying they thought they had found it after all, under the title Historic Towns. A few days later we had at last a copy of the eight page list with the brief annotated reference to Wivenhoe with its well-preserved ‘ancient’ town-plan, its waterfront and the fact that it was characterised by a number of buildings worthy of preservation, both Georgian and Regency, and Victorian.
Having done all we could to unearth the designation of the Conservation Area in the sixties we moved on to try and track down the later amendments. We were given some dates by the Conservation and Design Officer at CBC but there was no information available about the actual details. Eventually we contacted the Democratic Services Officer who discovered some useful Council minutes. The 1980 minutes contained references to the approval of revised new Conservation Areas and the review of the Schedule for Listed Buildings in the former Lexden and Winstree, Wivenhoe and West Mersea districts. The February 1994 minutes referred to an agreed extension to the Conservation Area to include the Wivenhoe Station site, and it was also resolved that British Rail should be served with a Listed Buildings urgent repair notice to repair the buildings at risk. Finally he found a reference in Spring 1987 to a report on the status of Cook’s Shipyard and a resolution that steps should be taken to extend the Conservation Area to include the whole of this site. Frustratingly the actual report was missing but a copy of the minutes referring to it should be in our hands shortly.
A more detailed outline of the work we have done so far is going on the Wivenhoe web site www.wivenhoe.gov.uk or a copy can be obtained by emailing email@example.com or phoning 01206 827880. Hopefully we will soon have all the information pulled together so that no-one will ever have to go through this elaborate search process again.
Pat Marsden’s research:
Queens Road is in a conservation area. It was designated as such on 17 June 1969 as part of the Civic Amenities Act 1967 (Section 1). Conservation Areas were introduced by this Act and are now an accepted part of Town and Country Planning legislation and practice. Local authorities are required to identify �areas of special architectural or historic interest, the character of which it is desirable to preserve or enhance�. They are also under a duty to review existing designations from time to time.
The reason for this particular designation was that Wivenhoe was one of a number of Essex towns which were noted as being �outstanding� in the Council for British Archaeology�s List of Towns of Architectural and Historic Importance.
The Minutes of an Essex County Council committee meeting held on 9 May 1967 (C/MT p18, pp 163 -164) note the passage through Parliament of the Civic Amenities Bill and the consequent need to identify those historic towns where conservation areas would need to be defined. The committee decided to make use in the first instance of the CBA�s list of historic towns published in 1965. Although this list was recognised not to be exhaustive, Wivenhoe was among the 16 towns in Essex included in the list, together with Castle Hedingham, Pleshey, and Writtle.
Dave Stenning from Colchester Civic Trust (01206 853174) � who now does consultancy work on appraisals, recalled in a telephone conversation in July 2006 that he was one of five new employees who joined the Planning Team at Essex County Council, as a Conservation Officer. He said that they had a large map on the wall with coloured pins and the CBA�s List of Towns of Architectural and Historical Interest. They collected suggestions and visited all the areas and developed a priority list and did ten or so areas at a time (there were about 120 in all). A report would have been written but doesn�t exist any more unless it�s in some dusty old file somewhere � he has tried to find it himself. There would have been just a few words about each area, probably he recalls, something on the lines of Wivenhoe being a mediaeval settlement with a harbour and old fishing port, good historic buildings and good historical character. The original boundary would be designated by the County Council although later these had to be rationalised. Virtually all were then re-designated and occasionally extended. Sometimes there changes of boundaries to take into account. Occasionally the powers that be would include a park which strictly speaking wasn�t necessary. He emphasised that the character of an area was very important and this should be protected. The character could include something like tranquillity for instance. Areas were partly determined by outside pressure.
Michael Munt from English Heritage (firstname.lastname@example.org) also suggested in an email sent in July 2006 that in 1969 there was not then a requirement for Conservation Area Statements and as such there may have been no accompanying document justifying designation or assessing the importance of the area. Today this would be done in a more comprehensive way, and hopefully Colchester will get around to re-appraising its conservation areas soon. He suggested that Wivenhoe was originally designated because of the high quality buildings and early street pattern within the central core, including the mediaeval church, the Quay and various surrounding buildings dating from the sixteenth century onwards. Later nineteenth century areas such as Queens Road would have been included partly because of the townscape value of the intact groups of Victorian housing, even if they are not all listed, and also because of the contribution they make to the setting of the town as a whole.
The Minutes of Wivenhoe Urban District Council (signed 30 October 1967) make reference to the Civic Amenities Act 1967 and to circulars 53/67 and 55/67 from the Ministry of Housing and Local Government in connection with the Civic Amenities Act 1967 which received Royal Assent on 27 July 1967. Part 1 of the Act relates to historic buildings and makes provision for the preservation of areas as distinct from individual buildings of architectural or historic interest. Local planning Authorities are to determine such areas considered desirable to be dealt with under this Act. Part 11 makes provision for the conservation and replacement of trees additional to that contained in the Town and Country Planning Act 1962, and requires the Local Planning Authority when granting permission to make sure, whenever appropriate, that adequate conditions are imposed for the protection of existing trees on a site or for the planting of new ones. County Councils as the planning authority will consult with District Councils. Part 111 of the Act deals with the disposal of abandoned vehicles and other refuse���. (some further references to refuse and abandoned motor vehicle) Local authorities may have time to put themselves in a position to implement Part 111 of the Act, the duties laid down therein do not come into force until July 1968.
The minutes of Wivenhoe Society dated 26 March 1968 under the heading of Falcon Inn. Mrs Dean (Secretary) had been informed by County Planning that Wivenhoe was going to be the subject of a study of possible Conservation Areas in the near future and she had written back stressing the need to get the survey going soon before any more damage was done.
Mrs Dean agreed to talk on Conservation Areas at the AGM.
At the AGM on 9 April 1968, Mr B C Kenyon of Essex County Council Planning Department gave an illustrated talk on the setting up of a Conservation Areas under the new Civic Amenities Act and said that the planning authority welcomed suggestions from local civic societies. Mr Downie of Colchester Civic Society gave an account of his experience of the workings of the new Act and talked about the independent survey of Conservation Areas in Colchester recently completed by the Colchester Civic Society.
The Minutes of 7 May 1968 refer to a Queens Road Tenants Association
The Minutes of 23 July 1968 state that Mrs Dean offered to undertake a survey of historic buildings in Wivenhoe and it was unanimously agreed that the offer be accepted.
Essex County Council�s Planning Committee�s Minutes for 26 November 1968 include an earlier resolution (C/MTp19, minute 87) as follows:
�87. Conservation Areas for Castle Hedingham, Pleshey, Wivenhoe and Writtle
(County Planner) To complete the Draft Designation of Conservation Areas in those Places listed by the Council for British Archaeology the following areas are submitted for approval in principle.
The conservation area proposed includes the compact sequence of spaces leading down from the High Street and St.Mary�s to the quay and waterfront� also some of the better Victorian development (Including some good terraces as in Alma Street) on the rising ground behind the Parish Church, around the railway.
a: That the proposed Conservation Areas � Castle Hedingham, Pleshey, Wivenhoe and Writtle � outstanding from the Council for British Archaeology�s List of towns of Architectural and Historic Importance, be approved in draft and that the County District Councils concerned be consulted under Section1 (3) of the Civic Amenities Act 1967.
b) That the County District Councils be asked to consult the Parish Councils and other interested bodies and societies before sending their comments to this Committee.
It seems therefore, that Wivenhoe Urban District Council would have been consulted.
The Minutes of the Wivenhoe Society of 3 December 1968 make reference to Mrs Dean reporting on the detailed survey of buildings worth preserving in Wivenhoe. County Planning had not yet begun their survey.
The Minutes of Wivenhoe Urban District Council (signed by the Chair on 27 January 1969) refers under the heading Civic Amenities Act � Section 1 � Proposed Conservation Area for Wivenhoe to a draft plan; as approved by the Essex County Council Planning Committee; of an area of conservation for Wivenhoe pursuant to the provisions of Section 1 (1) of the Civic Amenities Act 1967, and a general policy statement. The Council�s views as required by Section 1 (3) of the Act are requested before the plan is finally approved. When formulating the Council�s view it is requested that the views of other interested societies and bodies be taken into account. This was duly noted and it was RECOMMENDED that copy of the draft plan be made available to enable other interested societies and bodies within the area to submit their views.
The Minutes of the Public Health Committee of Wivenhoe Urban District Council meeting on 27 January 1969, refer under Matters Arising: Item 1 Civic Amenities Act 1967 � Section 1 � Proposed Conservation Area for Wivenhoe (Para 7 Mtg 30.12.68) The clerk reported that no inquiries had been made for examination of the draft plan etc. of the proposed Conservation Area for Wivenhoe and no representations or views had been received from organisations within the town.
The Minutes of Wivenhoe Urban District Council (signed by the Chair on February 10th 1969 � but crossed out?) refer to the Proposed Conservation Area for Wivenhoe � Planning Applications. The clerk was instructed to write the County Planning Department, and enquire as to whether the general principles relating to Conservation Areas were now being applied in connection with the consideration of any planning application received for development within the proposed Conservation Area for Wivenhoe.
An reference (1968/9 p.145) in the Wivenhoe Urban District Council minutes headed Proposed Conservation Area for Wivenhoe � Civic Amenities Act 1967 � Section 1 refers to the draft plan as approved by the County Planning Committee� of an area of conservation for Wivenhoe pursuant to Section 1 (1) of the Civic Amenities Act and the general policy statement, as previously submitted to Committee on 30 December 1968, was further considered. The Council�s views as required by Section 1 (3) of the Act are requested before the plan is finally approved. It is reported that two individual inquiries had been made in regard to the plan, but no inquiries or views had been received from organisations within the town. After due consideration of the draft plan and general policy statement it is RECOMMENDED that the Council consider the area designated for a conservation area satisfactory and are in general agreement with the boundaries of the area as indicated on the plan.
The Minutes of Wivenhoe Society dated 4 February 1969 note that Mrs Dean reported that the list of interesting buildings was now ready for sending to the Minister and she wanted to know whether to include buildings outside the proposed Conservation Area. The Committee asked her to include all buildings in Wivenhoe she thought worth preserving.
The Minutes of 4 March dated 4 March 1969 note that Mrs Dean�s report would go on the Society�s files and she is to get a copy of the draft plan for exhibition at the AGM.
The Minutes of 17 April 1969 note that it was decided that the Committee should discuss the proposed Conservation Area at the next meeting.
The Minutes of the County Council�s Planning Committee dated 20 May 1969, also note that �following the preparation of draft conservation areas for [Wivenhoe and 11 others] replies have now been received from the bodies concerned, a summary of which is before the Committee�, and resolving that these �as now amended, be approved and formally designated under Section 1 of the Civic Amenities Act 1967 and forwarded to the Minister of Housing and Local Government.� This appears to have been a standard form of words: at its next meeting, on 15 July 1969, the Committee approved another 16 conservations areas in the same terms (minute 117).
The letter confirming the designation of the conservation area by Essex County Council Planning Department on 17 June 1969 with an accompanying draft and original map is held in Wivenhoe Town Council Offices in a file marked �Civic Amenities Act 1967). The County Council minutes as above are stored in the Essex Record Office.
The Minutes of Wivenhoe Society dated 15 July 1969 state that it was felt that the Society�s role in respect of the Conservation Area should remain vigilant and to try to ensure the spirit of the Act was put into practice.
The Minutes of the Wivenhoe Society dated 17 November 1969 state that the Secretary was asked to write to the Eastern Electricity Board and find out if they have any plan for putting the electric cables underground in the Conservation Area.
The Minutes of 9 December state that the Secretary read out a letter from EEB saying that the matter would be referred to the County Planner for his consideration.
The Minutes of Tuesday 7 April 1970 mention a Conservation Area Advisory Group (Mr [Austin] Baines, Secretary)
The Minutes of 16 March 1972 mention that there is to be a working party from the Council to list ancient buildings.
Around 1972? Mention of (John?) Doubleday � Conservation Plans of the Society.
Dave Stenning from Colchester Civic Trust in a telephone conversation in July 2006: Things have changed since the late sixties and early seventies when there was a lot of enthusiasm for Conservation Areas and it was a big issue. This interest waned over following decades and there were a number of big battles to try and get things done. However, recently there has been a revival of interest and today there are Conservation Area Appraisals . If improvements are made you can score points and in some cases funding. There is money about for this kind of thing.
We had a talk about Article Four, which gave powers to planning departments to exert some control over residential areas. Mostly to do with frontages and boundary treatments. Planning permission for works used to have to go the Secretary of State but under Article 4 (2) can now be dealt with by Colchester Borough Council. Sufficient pressure can achieve it. Gives Maldon as an example of good practice; they have done a lot to improve Victorian terraces for instance and will also give a grant for improvement in some cases. The first stage is an Appraisal followed by an Article 4 Direction. Colchester do not give money for grants. Can result in warfare if e.g. 80% are keen to improve and 20% don�t want to or are unable to. Referred to Silver End in Braintree.
Pat Marsden, 26 Queens Road, Wivenhoe CO7 9JH (Tel: 01206 827880)
Note: Around 1995, Colchester Borough Council obtained agreement to extend the Conservation Area to include the Cook’s Shipyard area and the Wivenhoe railway station. Peter Hill
- Click here for map of the earlier Conservation area
- Click here for the present Conservation Area